By Stephen E. Seckler, Esq.

I write frequently about legal marketing (including many articles I’ve published in the GPSolo eReport, and hundreds of posts I’ve done on my blog and on LinkedIn).  See e.g. 18 Marketing Mistakes Lawyers Must Avoid.

I write in part to create more resources for the attorneys I coach.

In that vein, a few months ago, I saw a gap that I wanted to fill.

I am always telling my clients to learn what they can about the people they meet.  What you learn can be very helpful in staying top of mind.

I sat down to create a checklist that my clients could refer to.  I opened a Word document and started typing.  Pretty quickly, I realized that this was a great job for AI.

What follows is a dialogue I had with ChatGPT.

This article is intended to educate lawyers about the types of information they could be learning about people in their network.  But it is also intended to show the tremendous power of using ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is like a very good intern!  If you give it the right instructions, you may end up with a pretty good work product. But you need to check the work.  While in this case, I had to ask follow up prompts to get what I wanted, what follows below is verbatim!

Stephen Seckler (SES):  I’m writing an article about ways to build business relationships. I would like to share ideas that will be practical and helpful. One of the things I want to focus on are the types of information that it is useful to learn about people in your network so that you can build your relationship with them. I would also like you to indicate for each item why it is useful to know that fact about the person and what one can do to build the relationship using that information.


Building strong business relationships is crucial for professional success. Here’s a list of key information types to learn about people in your network, along with reasons why they’re useful and strategies for leveraging this information to strengthen your relationships:

  1. Professional Background

Why Useful: Understanding someone’s professional journey, including their current role, past experiences, and future aspirations, helps you appreciate their skills, experiences, and goals.

How to Use: Share opportunities, advice, or connections that align with their career path. Engaging in discussions about industry trends relevant to their background can also be beneficial.

  1. Educational Background

Why Useful: Knowing their educational background can provide insights into their expertise and interests.

How to Use: Connect on common educational experiences or subjects of interest. This can also guide you in recommending relevant professional development resources or events.

  1. Personal Interests and Hobbies

Why Useful: Personal interests give a more holistic view of the person beyond their professional life.

How to Use: Engage in conversations about these interests. If you share a hobby, this can be a great way to bond. You can also recommend articles, events, or groups related to their hobbies.

  1. Work Challenges and Needs

Why Useful: Understanding the challenges they face at work helps in providing targeted support or solutions.

How to Use: Offer advice, share resources, or connect them with others who can help in addressing these challenges.

  1. Cultural Background

Why Useful: This helps in understanding their perspectives and may inform their professional interactions.

How to Use: Show respect and interest in their cultural background. This can include celebrating cultural events with them or understanding their communication style.

  1. Personal Achievements

Why Useful: Acknowledging their achievements shows appreciation for their hard work and success.

How to Use: Congratulate them on their successes, both in formal settings and casually. This can also lead to discussions about their journey towards these achievements.

  1. Professional Goals and Aspirations

Why Useful: Knowing what they aspire to achieve can help you align your interactions and support towards these goals.

How to Use: Share resources, introduce them to people in your network, or advise them on steps that can help them reach their goals.

  1. Communication Preferences

Why Useful: Everyone has different communication styles and preferences, and understanding these can make interactions more effective.

How to Use: Adapt to their preferred style of communication, whether it’s emails, calls, or in-person meetings. This shows respect for their comfort and can lead to more productive exchanges.

  1. Industry Insights

Why Useful: They might have unique insights into specific industry trends or changes.

How to Use: Engage them in conversations about these insights. This not only shows that you value their opinion but can also provide valuable information for your own professional knowledge.

  1. Networking Preferences

Why Useful: Understanding how they prefer to network (events, one-on-one meetings, online platforms) can help in building a relationship in a way that’s comfortable for them.

How to Use: Invite them to networking events they prefer or engage with them on platforms where they are most active.

By focusing on these aspects, your business relationships can become more meaningful and beneficial. Remember, the key is not just to know these details but to use them thoughtfully to foster genuine connections.

SES:  What about values and beliefs, personal challenges, work and personal anniversaries, and career milestones?


Including values and beliefs, personal challenges, work and personal anniversaries, and career milestones in your understanding of someone in your business network can significantly deepen the relationship. Here’s how these elements are useful and ways to utilize this information:

  1. Values and Beliefs

Why Useful: Knowing someone’s core values and beliefs can help you understand their decision-making process and what drives them.

How to Use: Respect and acknowledge their values in your interactions. This can involve supporting causes important to them or engaging in projects that align with these values.

  1. Personal Challenges

Why Useful: Being aware of personal challenges they might be facing shows empathy and understanding.

How to Use: Offer support or accommodations that might help them. Sometimes, just being a good listener can be invaluable.

  1. Work and Personal Anniversaries

Why Useful: Remembering anniversaries such as the start of their business or a personal milestone like a wedding anniversary shows attentiveness and personal care.

How to Use: Send them a note or message acknowledging these anniversaries. If appropriate, a small gift or gesture can also be meaningful.

  1. Career Milestones

Why Useful: Career milestones are significant achievements in one’s professional journey.

How to Use: Celebrate their milestones, whether it’s a promotion, completion of a big project, or a work anniversary. Acknowledging these achievements can strengthen your professional bond.

By paying attention to these more personal and significant aspects of someone’s life, you demonstrate a deeper level of care and interest that goes beyond mere professional courtesy. This can lead to stronger, more resilient business relationships built on mutual respect and understanding. Remember to approach these topics with sensitivity and discretion, as they can be quite personal.

SES:  Can you add to the list more personal facts like marital status, children, preferred types of music, favorite movies, or books, places where they vacation? Also, please list some of the hobbies that you mentioned above and expand on that as well as in sports, theater, music, or other general interests that are not actually hobbies, including politics or civic engagement.


Certainly! Adding more personal facts to your understanding of someone’s profile can greatly enrich your business relationships. Here’s an expanded list that includes these aspects, along with reasons for their importance and how you can use this information:

  1. Marital Status

Why Useful: Knowing their marital status can offer context for their life outside of work.

How to Use: Respect boundaries and engage in appropriate conversations, possibly including their spouse in certain social invitations.

  1. Children

Why Useful: Understanding their family structure can offer insights into their priorities and time commitments.

How to Use: Show interest by asking about their children’s well-being and activities in a respectful manner. Share relevant family-friendly resources or events.

  1. Preferred Types of Music

Why Useful: Music preferences can reveal aspects of their personality and provide a common ground for conversation.

How to Use: Discuss music, share recommendations, or even invite them to concerts or musical events.

  1. Favorite Movies or Books

Why Useful: Favorite movies or books can be a great conversation starter and offer insight into their interests.

How to Use: Discuss these favorites, suggest similar titles, or even gift a book or movie you think they’d enjoy.

  1. Vacation Preferences

Why Useful: Knowing their preferred vacation spots can reveal a lot about their interests and relaxation style.

How to Use: Engage in conversations about travel, share experiences, or offer recommendations.

  1. Hobbies

Sports: Engage in conversations about their favorite sports, share news, or even attend games together.

Theater: Discuss recent plays or musicals, recommend shows, or plan a group outing to a theater.

Music: Talk about their favorite genres or artists, and share experiences related to music events or performances.

Art: Engage in discussions about art forms they like, visit galleries together, or share information about art exhibitions.

  1. General Interests

Politics: If they are open to discussing politics, engage in respectful and informed conversations about current events.

Civic Engagement: Discuss community projects, volunteer opportunities, or civic issues they are passionate about.

Each of these pieces of information offers a unique opportunity to connect on a more personal level. The key is to approach these topics with sensitivity and respect, ensuring that your interest is genuine and not intrusive. By doing so, you can create a more meaningful and lasting business relationship.

SES: Please expand on actions I can take like sending items of interest to people like articles or cartoons. Also, what are events or activities that I can use to build my relationship understanding people’s personal interests?


Expanding on your actions to build relationships through sharing interests and organizing events or activities, you can create more engaging and personal connections. Here are some specific actions and ideas:

  1. Sending Articles, Cartoons, or Videos

Action: If you come across an article, cartoon, or video that aligns with their interests or is relevant to a recent conversation, share it with them via email or social media.

Impact: This shows you’re thinking of them and value their interests, which can be a great conversation starter or a way to stay in touch.

  1. Book or Movie Recommendations

Action: Based on their favorite genres or recent discussions, recommend books or movies. You could even start a casual book or movie club with a few contacts.

Impact: Sharing media can lead to deeper discussions and shared experiences, fostering a sense of community.

  1. Invitations to Sports Events

Action: If they are interested in a particular sport, invite them to a game or watch a match together at a sports bar or a viewing party.

Impact: Sharing a sports experience can be a fun way to bond and show that you value their interests.

  1. Theater, Concerts, or Art Exhibitions

Action: For those interested in the arts, invite them to a play, concert, or art exhibition. This could also include virtual events.

Impact: Cultural outings offer a sophisticated and enjoyable way to connect, allowing for shared experiences and discussions.

  1. Golf Outings or Other Sporting Activities

Action: Organize or invite them to a golf outing, a friendly game of tennis, or other sporting activities.

Impact: Participating in sports together can foster camaraderie and offer a relaxed environment for conversation.

  1. Cooking Classes or Wine Tastings

Action: Invite them to join a cooking class or a wine tasting event, especially if they have expressed an interest in culinary experiences.

Impact: Such activities are enjoyable and provide a casual setting for engaging conversations.

  1. Travel and Adventure Activities

Action: If they enjoy travel, discuss potential destinations or share your experiences. You might even organize a group travel event or a local adventure.

Impact: Sharing travel stories or experiences can create lasting memories and deepen connections.

  1. Charity Events or Volunteer Work

Action: If they are involved in civic engagement, participate in a charity event or volunteer activity together.

Impact: Engaging in community service can bond you over shared values and a sense of purpose.

  1. Networking Events or Professional Workshops

Action: Invite them to relevant networking events, workshops, or seminars. This is especially effective for contacts who are keen on professional development.

Impact: Such events provide opportunities for learning and meeting new people, which can be mutually beneficial.

  1. Personalized Gifts or Notes

Action: On special occasions or milestones, send personalized gifts or handwritten notes that reflect their interests or achievements.

Impact: Personalized gestures show thoughtfulness and appreciation for the relationship.

These actions and activities are effective ways to build relationships because they demonstrate genuine interest and investment in the other person’s personal and professional well-being. Always ensure that your actions are considerate and appropriate for the nature of your relationship with each individual.

SES: Are there any caveats that you would offer about which activities to choose beyond knowing what are someone else’s interests? What about my own interests? Should that be a factor? Can you include in this a discussion of authenticity?


Absolutely, while aligning activities with someone else’s interests is important, there are several caveats and considerations to keep in mind, including your own interests and the importance of authenticity. Let’s delve into these aspects:

Choosing Activities: Beyond Knowing Interests

  1. Consider Mutual Enjoyment

While it’s crucial to consider the other person’s interests, your own enjoyment is equally important. Engaging in an activity that you genuinely enjoy can lead to more authentic interactions and shared enthusiasm.

  1. Balance Professionalism and Personal Interests

In a business context, it’s important to maintain a professional demeanor. Ensure that the activities are appropriate and do not compromise professional boundaries.

  1. Respect Comfort Zones

Some activities, while enjoyable for one, might be out of the comfort zone for another. It’s important to choose activities that both parties are comfortable with.

  1. Be Mindful of Time Commitments

Consider the time commitment required for the activity. Busy professionals might appreciate more concise, less time-consuming engagements.

  1. Cultural Sensitivity

Be culturally sensitive in your choice of activities. What might be a common activity in one culture could be inappropriate or misunderstood in another.

Factoring In Your Own Interests

  1. Shared Interests for Authentic Connections

Engaging in activities that align with both your and the other person’s interests fosters a more authentic connection. Shared passions or hobbies can be powerful bonding tools.

  1. Avoid Forced Interests

Participating in an activity you have no real interest in can come across as disingenuous. Authenticity in business relationships is key to building trust and rapport.

  1. Finding Common Ground

If your interests don’t align perfectly, find a middle ground where both parties can enjoy the experience. This could be trying something new to both of you.

The Role of Authenticity

  1. Authenticity Builds Trust

Genuine interactions are the foundation of any strong relationship. People are more likely to engage and invest in relationships where they feel a sense of sincerity and honesty.

  1. Avoid Overreaching

While it’s important to show interest in the other person’s likes and dislikes, avoid overreaching or pretending to be someone you’re not. Authenticity involves being true to your own character and values.

  1. Consistency is Key

Ensure that your actions and the way you present yourself are consistent over time. Inconsistencies can lead to distrust or a sense of unreliability.

  1. Transparency and Openness

Be open about your intentions and transparent in your interactions. If an activity or topic is outside your scope, it’s okay to admit it. This can actually lead to more genuine and meaningful conversations.

In summary, while aligning activities with someone else’s interests is crucial in building business relationships, incorporating your own interests and maintaining authenticity are just as important. Relationships built on mutual enjoyment, respect, and authenticity are likely to be more rewarding and sustainable in the long run.

SES: We can gather a lot of this information by speaking with our business network but what are some other ways to gather this information (e.g. social media, Google searches)?


Gathering information about your business network can indeed go beyond direct conversations. Here are some alternative methods:

  1. Social Media Platforms:

Platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can provide a wealth of information about professional backgrounds, interests, and personal milestones.

LinkedIn is particularly useful for professional details, while other platforms may offer insights into personal interests and activities.

  1. Google Searches:

A simple Google search can yield articles, interviews, or news mentions that reveal professional achievements, interests, and public appearances.

This can also include finding any blogs or personal websites they might have.

  1. Company Websites:

If they are associated with a particular organization, the company’s website often has bios of key personnel, detailing their professional background and sometimes personal interests.

  1. Industry Publications and Newsletters:

Subscribing to industry-specific publications can provide insights into their professional accomplishments and viewpoints, especially if they contribute articles or are mentioned.

  1. Networking Events and Conferences:

Attend industry events, conferences, and seminars where they participate. These can provide insights into their professional interests and expertise.

Observing their interactions and topics of discussions can also offer valuable information.

  1. Mutual Contacts:

Mutual professional contacts can sometimes provide insights, especially regarding professional interests and networking preferences.

However, it’s important to approach this method with discretion to maintain privacy and professionalism.

  1. Public Records and Articles:

Public records (where accessible and appropriate) can provide information on business ventures, published work, and sometimes civic engagement.

Articles in which they’re featured can provide both professional and personal insights.

  1. Alumni Networks and Publications:

If you share an alma mater, alumni networks and publications can be a good source of information about their educational background and achievements.

  1. Volunteer Organizations and Non-profits:

If they are involved in volunteer work or non-profits, these organizations’ websites and publications can reveal their interests in civic engagement and values.

  1. Professional Directories and Associations:

Membership in professional associations can indicate areas of professional interest and expertise.

Some associations publish member directories or profiles.

  1. Podcasts or Webinars:

If they have participated in podcasts or webinars, these can be excellent sources of information about their professional opinions, achievements, and sometimes personal interests.

  1. Book and Article Authorship:

If they have written books or articles, these works can offer deep insights into their professional expertise and personal passions.

When using these methods, it’s crucial to respect privacy and ethical boundaries. The goal is to gain a better understanding to foster genuine professional relationships, not to intrude into personal lives without consent.


This article was originally published in the April 2024 issue of Law Practice Today published by the American Bar Association.


The post How Does ChatGPT Understand Business Relationships? first appeared on Seckler Attorney Coaching.